Women's Water Polo Posts Highest-Ever Finish at CWPA Tournament

Strong Hong
Sophomore attacker Kristen Hong pictured here in early March against Princeton. The Orinda, Calif., native has registered 50 goals and pitched in 16 assists on the season, while recording 28 steals on the defensive side of the ball.

Traveling to Bloomington, Indiana, the Harvard women’s water polo team finished off a strong season with a fourth-place finish in the CWPA Championship Tournament, the Crimson’s highest mark in almost 20 years.

The highlight of the weekend was No. 20 Harvard’s (15-14, 4-4 CWPA) 12-11 comeback win over No. 16 Indiana on Friday night in front of a boisterous crowd. On Saturday, Harvard fell 11-5 to first-seeded No. 7 Michigan and finished with a 10-7 loss against No. 15 Hartwick in the third-place game.

“We were bummed that we weren't able to come out with a few more wins, but 4th place is the best finish in Harvard women's water polo history,” sophomore Kristin Hong said. “We've been able to break down a lot of barriers this season, and we are excited for the future.”

No. 20 HARVARD 12, No. 16 INDIANA 11

Coming out to fast start, Indiana (21-10, 5-3) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first minute of play. Harvard senior Zoe Osborne quickly answered the goal to tie the score off a feed from fellow senior Michelle Martinelli. However, Harvard lost momentum, and Indiana rebounded to score four consecutive goals to finish out the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Harvard held Indiana scoreless, and freshman Mathilde Ribordy found the net with seven minutes left in the half to close the game to a three-point deficit. In the opening 90 seconds of the second half, Harvard scored three times, twice in under a minute by Hong.

“Kristen Hong’s two really quick goals in the third quarter to get us up when we were [down] 5-2 were key,” Coach Ted Minnis said. “And the floodgates opened after that.”

Throughout the second half, six other Harvard players scored in addition to Hong’s four goals. Freshman Sofia Carrera-Justiz scored the tide-turning goal, helping Harvard take its first lead of the game. With goals from Osborne, Ribordy, junior Sami Strutner and Martinelli, Harvard kept a two-point lead, finishing the quarter with a score of 10-8.

In the final period, Indiana scored first, closing the gap to a one-point game. With just over five minutes left in the game, freshman Julie Harrison responded with a goal, but the two-point lead was short-lived, and Indiana tied the game 11-11 with 3:35 to go.

Hong pulled through with her fourth goal of the game with 2:23 on the clock, putting Harvard back on top at 12-11. Junior Cleo Harrington held strong against Indiana’s final attempts, giving Harvard the win and helping the team advance to the semifinals of the CWPA Championships.

No. 7 MICHIGAN 11, No. 20 HARVARD 5

On Saturday, Harvard played top-seeded Michigan (28-8, 8-0) in the semifinals but was unable to upset the Wolverines. Harvard struggle to score in the first half against Michigan with sophomore Haley Bowe scoring Harvard’s lone goal of the first two periods, resulting in a 4-1 score at the intermission.

In the second half, Martinelli’s hat trick and a goal from Ribordy helped Harvard close the gap at times, but Michigan held strong and finished with an 11-5 victory.

No. 15 HARTWICK 10, No. 20 HARVARD 7

In the third-place game of the CWPA Championships, Harvard fought hard against Hartwick (24-10, 6-2) but was unable to stop the Hawks from pulling away and earning a 10-7 victory.

In the first eight minutes of the game, goals from Harvard seniors Martinelli and Eela Nagaraj kept the score tied at 2-2. However, Hartwick scored twice early in the second quarter and then three-straight goals late in the quarter, to end the first half with a 7-4 lead at the intermission.

Ribordy opened the second half with an early goal, closing the deficit to two points. Martinelli finished the third quarter with a goal, and Osborne scored another for Harvard in the first possession of the fourth quarter, making a late game comeback seem possible. However, Hartwick regained possession and finished the game with a 3-0 run to defeat Harvard 10-7.

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